Pregnancy Trimesters: What to Expect

Published on March 15th, 2019 and Updated on March 18th, 2021

Each trimester of pregnancy comes with its own joys and challenges. From tracking fetal movement and all of baby’s development to early pregnancy morning sickness. And while there are certain hallmarks of each one, every woman’s experience is different and unique — in fact every pregnancy can be different even for the same woman. It’s an invitation for every pregnant woman tune into her body and heart on a daily basis and trust in beautiful things to come!

Of course, it does help to know what you might expect during all three pregnancy trimesters, and more importantly, what you get to look forward to. Here’s an idea of what each trimester can be like and what to look forward to at different stages of pregnancy.

The First Trimester

This trimester begins with conception and goes up through week 12. Most women find out they are pregnant between 3 and 9 weeks, usually when they realize they’ve missed their last menstrual period or are frequently testing. If you’ve been pregnant before, you may recognize the earlier signs sooner. During this time, your baby will go from just a zygote (a fertilized egg) to an over-2-inch tall fetus. At this point, your baby has already developed the foundation for all of his or her major organs and systems.

What you might be feeling:

Excitement! This marks a whole new chapter in your life — whether that’s adding a new child to the family or a new sibling.

Concern. Thoughts about how to maintain a healthy pregnancy, how to properly prepare for new baby, and all that will come after birth, can feel overwhelming at first. Just remember: one day at a time.

Fear may come up, too — as it often does with big change. You may have lingering concerns about how the dynamic of your family will shift; whether that’s the way you relate to your partner, or the day-to-day lives of your other children (if you have them), life will undoubtedly be different. It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by those unknowns. The best way to meet any fear is one day, and even one moment, at a time. When those feelings do come up, communication can help as can staying informed during each new pregnancy week. Reading books and newborn articles can help you anticipate pregnancy symptoms, baby’s development, and finally, what life might look like after baby’s birth.

What you might be thinking:

Almost every thought will likely be around: what’s next? You’ll be making some of those first “big” decisions and discoveries: finding out your due date (from your doctor or from an online pregnancy calculator), finding out the gender, when to tell your family, what kind of delivery you want, and who your OBGYN should be. You should also schedule your first prenatal visit. You’ll need to call the insurance company and look into maternity leave if you work. To top it off, you’ll likely be dealing with the first signs of “pregnancy brain”, which could make all these efforts feel a bit more overwhelming.

One step at a time! Make a list and tackle them day by day. Lean on your partner, friends and family for support and don’t be afraid to delegate. It’s good practice for the future!

What might be happening in your body:

Significant change in hormone levels can lead to nausea (morning sickness), strange and specific cravings, and breast tenderness. You may actually lose weight from the nausea or feel a little bloated and tight in your jeans despite it. On the bright side, higher levels of estrogen prolong the growth cycle of hair, leading to thicker locks (and in many cases, shinier too!)

 Best moments to look forward to:

Finding out your baby’s gender! Now you’re able to find out much sooner —  as early as 8 weeks, and without having to book another doctor’s visit.

The Second Trimester

Welcome to week 13 – 28! This is the trimester when pregnancy becomes more real — mainly because you’ll have a growing baby so everyone else knows about it. You can share in the joys, get advice (or politely refuse it) and enjoy the excitement of what’s to come. During these next 16 weeks, your baby will be developing hearing, hair, eyebrows, and martial arts skills (many women experience the first kicks and baby’s movements between weeks 16 and 25). Many consider the second trimester the “golden age” because of the reinvigorated energy many women experience. The negative symptoms of the first trimester will lessen and your belly will start to rise with a cute baby bump. 

What you might be feeling:

A growing sense of anticipation coupled by a new sense of calmness.  As your baby bump grows, don’t be surprised if your nesting instinct kicks into full gear, too. This is the perfect time to prepare and get things done.

What you might be thinking:

Now that some of the bigger decisions are in the works, it’s time for the fun part. From choosing a name and prepping the baby room to forming a birth plan, you’ll be in full-on “get things done!” mode for the next couple of months.

 What might be happening in your body:

This will likely be the most comfortable trimester of the three – and luckily the perfect time to complete “nesting” activities and preparation. For that very reason, it might be a good time to consider going on a “babymoon” with your significant other for a little more couple bonding before baby arrives.

Your bump will start really showing, so don’t be surprised by the random oohs and ahhs and questions of ‘when are you due?’ from friends, neighbors, and perfect strangers. Amid an angelic glow and sense of happiness, you may also experience back aches, heartburn, leg cramping, as well as skin and hair changes. These symptoms look a little different for everyone.

Best moments to look forward to:

Sharing the news with family and friends and getting to feel baby kick and turn. There’s nothing like it!

The Third Trimester

That due date is right around the corner now. You’re considered to be in your third trimester when you enter week 29, through full term at 40 weeks. The last trimester is marked by your baby’s final developments. His or her eyes will be able to open and close and even follow a light. Their lungs are nearing completion, and weight gain occurs rapidly for both you and the baby (this is a good thing!). The light at the end of the tunnel approaches quickly. In the last month, you may experience trouble sleeping, lots of movement from your baby, and contractions (which can signal either real or false labor, called Braxton-Hicks Contractions). 

What you might be feeling:

Calm preparation mode, punctuated by bouts of anxiety about when the baby will come, if family will be in town, how the delivery will go. And of course, wondering if that contraction-like feeling you’re having is Braxton Hicks or if you’re actually in labor.

What you might be thinking:

Your mind will be focused on the delivery. The best way to quell anxieties is to prepare and communicate with your partner. Take classes and plan your ideal delivery, as well as an alternative option just in case you need it. These steps will help you feel confident and ready. Be sure to get lots of rest too — you’ll be glad you did later!

What might be happening in your body:

Full disclosure: this part can get uncomfortable. You may have trouble sleeping or finding a position you like when lying down. The baby will “drop” in preparation for delivery, which you may distinctly feel as a sudden movement, or may happen gradually without you really noticing. You may experience false labor contractions even weeks before birth. Unlike true labor contractions, which come at regular intervals and increase in strength, false labor contractions are usually irregular and do not increase in intensity. If contractions are consistent and getting stronger, that’s your cue to get the hospital or birthing center!

Best moments to look forward to:

What else? Meeting your new little one.

No matter what happens when, or how it happens, this pregnancy is a beautiful chance to practice presence, tap into the amazing abilities of your body, bond with your partner, and connect with what life is really all about. Like all the best things in life, it will be wonderful, messy, and breathtaking. Enjoy it for all that it is!

Are you expecting or know someone that is? Find out if it’s boy or girl as early as 8 weeks!

With the SneakPeek™ Early Gender DNA test, you can get results right in your email inbox in as little as 72 hours. No doctor’s visit required.

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